An Interview That Should Scare the Bejesus (or Devil) Out of You: New York Magazine Talks to Justice Antonin Scalia

Richard Dawkins has labeled belief "delusional."  Most of us know that the Devil was a Judeo-Christian invention, a bugaboo to keep the flocks in thrall of dualistic dogma: behave yourself and J*H*V*H or Jesus will reward you with Heaven; fuck up and you will wind up in an eternity of hellish hotness or frigid cold, depending on the imagination of the cleric (and on that alone since no one has gone to the undiscovered country and returned to tell the tale). That a sitting justice on the SCOTUS believes in such nonsense suggests Dawkins not only was right, he pinpointed a genuinely frightening prospect: final arbiters of our nation's laws who are Donald Duck crazy. 

I am a new subscriber to New York Magazine.  I started my sub when I returned from a brief visit with my son in Brooklyn, but to be perfectly honest about it, the magazine, like all print media these days, must be having hard times: they made me an offer I simply could not refuse.  I do not feel I wasted my money, not if the last issue is any indication.  It contains a portrait of Joaquin Phoenix doing a new movie with the delightful director, Spike Jonze, and an extended and quite revealing interview with Justice Antonin Scalia.  I urge you to read the entire interview online at

In the meantime, let me say that with regard to women's rights and those of same sex couples, Scalia contradicts himself -- you'll see how -- and he is equally befuddled on the subject of interpreting the Constitutional "as written," punctuating his presentist arguments (that the 18th century has any similarity to the 21st) with admissions, repeatedly, that "times change."  But the most incredible (jaw-dropping, really) aspect of the interview is how closely he adheres to Catholic dogma.  A Sicilian, Scalia actually believes in the infallibility of the Pope, application of Catholic dogma to such things as abortion, and the existence of the Devil.  I warn you, this segment of the interview may have you not only seeing red but going out into the streets and screaming that the sky is falling in. Here, in all its astonishing stupidity, is the segment I am talking about:

You believe in heaven and hell?
Oh, of course I do. Don’t you believe in heaven and hell?

Oh, my.

Does that mean I’m not going?
[Laughing.] Unfortunately not!

Wait, to heaven or hell?
It doesn’t mean you’re not going to hell, just because you don’t believe in it. That’s Catholic doctrine! Everyone is going one place or the other.

But you don’t have to be a Catholic to get into heaven? Or believe in it?
Of course not!

Oh. So you don’t know where I’m going. Thank God.
I don’t know where you’re going. I don’t even know whether Judas Iscariot is in hell. I mean, that’s what the pope meant when he said, “Who am I to judge?” He may have recanted and had severe penance just before he died. Who knows?

Can we talk about your drafting process—
[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.

You do?
Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.

Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …
If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.

Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?
You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.

It’s because he’s smart.

So what’s he doing now?
What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.

That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the ­Devil’s work?
I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.

Well, you’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?
Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.

What happened to him?

He just got wilier.
He got wilier.

Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.

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You are correct Joan.  This was a very good read.  It totally debunks the myth that womens rights, and slavery were brought about by the efforts of xians and their bleeding hearts.  (If only they would just bleed out!!)


The comment made about moral relativism, while not inaccurate, is not fair given the topic and length of the book and I believe that Jacoby takes a moment to ponder the subject and apologizes for not being able to spend more than that moment to explore the concept in depth.


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